Dr. Mary Bernheim, "Molly," was born Mary Hare in 1902 in Gloucester, England. She spent her childhood in India. She received a BA, MA, and PhD from Cambridge in England, the latter in 1928. She also married Dr. Frederick Bernheim in 1928. He would become a Nobel-nominated researcher in pharmacology. Mary Hare, while a graduate student, also in 1928, discovered the enzyme tyramine oxidase. The enzyme was eventually renamed monoamine oxidase (MAO) and was later found to play a significant role in mood regulation. In 1975, the CIBA foundation held a symposium and published a book of papers of papers, called Monoamine Oxidase and its Inhibitors, in honor of Dr. Mary Bernheim's discovery, which Theodore Slotkin calls "one of the seminal discoveries in twentieth century neurobiology."
The Doctors Bernheim both would become members of the original faculty of Duke Medical School beginning in 1930, Mary Bernheim in the Department of Biochemistry, and she often was the lone woman in the department. She would become a full professor in 1962. When she passed away at the age of 95, she was the last surviving member of the original faculty of the medical school.
She continued her study of liver enzymes and nitrogen-containing compounds while at Duke and published over sixty papers. She taught nutrition courses as well as biochemistry courses, and was far ahead of trends in warning against eating fat and against fad diets. She became an enthusiastic aviator and compiled a book about the subject called A Sky of My Own, which was nominated in 1959 by the North Carolina Board of Award for literary competitions. She was also an avid gardener and naturalist.